Syndecan 1 Is a Critical Mediator of Macropinocytosis in Pancreatic Cancer

Nature. 2019 Apr;568(7752):410-414. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1062-1. Epub 2019 Mar 27.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) remains recalcitrant to all forms of cancer treatment and carries a five-year survival rate of only 8%1. Inhibition of oncogenic KRAS (hereafter KRAS*), the earliest lesion in disease development that is present in more than 90% of PDACs, and its signalling surrogates has yielded encouraging preclinical results with experimental agents2-4. However, KRAS*-independent disease recurrence following genetic extinction of Kras* in mouse models anticipates the need for co-extinction strategies5,6. Multiple oncogenic processes are initiated at the cell surface, where KRAS* physically and functionally interacts to direct signalling that is essential for malignant transformation and tumour maintenance. Insights into the complexity of the functional cell-surface-protein repertoire (surfaceome) have been technologically limited until recently and-in the case of PDAC-the genetic control of the function and composition of the PDAC surfaceome in the context of KRAS* signalling remains largely unknown. Here we develop an unbiased, functional target-discovery platform to query KRAS*-dependent changes of the PDAC surfaceome, which reveals syndecan 1 (SDC1, also known as CD138) as a protein that is upregulated at the cell surface by KRAS*. Localization of SDC1 at the cell surface-where it regulates macropinocytosis, an essential metabolic pathway that fuels PDAC cell growth-is essential for disease maintenance and progression. Thus, our study forges a mechanistic link between KRAS* signalling and a targetable molecule driving nutrient salvage pathways in PDAC and validates oncogene-driven surfaceome annotation as a strategy to identify cancer-specific vulnerabilities.

MeSH terms

  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / pathology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pinocytosis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Syndecan-1 / metabolism*


  • Guanine Nucleotide Exchange Factors
  • KRAS protein, human
  • PSD4 protein, human
  • SDC1 protein, human
  • Sdc1 protein, mouse
  • Syndecan-1
  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors
  • ADP-ribosylation factor 6
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)